$100m global challenge for ultra-low-cost solar

Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA)

Tuesday, 25 June, 2024

$100m global challenge for ultra-low-cost solar

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) has launched a $100 million initiative to encourage developers, engineers, financiers and solar customers around the world to accelerate innovation in large-scale solar and help drive down costs.

The ‘Solar ScaleUp Challenge’ is particularly focused on driving developments in installation, operations and maintenance, enabling ARENA to realise its ultra-low-cost solar (ULCS) vision.

“Ultra-low-cost solar is critical for reducing electricity costs and decarbonising hard-to-abate sectors such as industry and transport,” said ARENA CEO Darren Miller. “It is also a key factor in Australia becoming a renewable energy superpower, a vision which would see Australia playing a major role in supplying our key trading partners with low emissions products such as green iron and hydrogen.”

Miller added that collaboration was key to reducing costs and maintaining Australia’s leading role in the development and innovation of solar technologies. “We are aiming to bring together leaders across Australia and the world to tackle the challenges presented in our quest for even cheaper renewable energy through this critical technology,” he said.

The Challenge is being delivered with the assistance of Greenhouse Tech, whose online platform is designed to facilitate the formation of multidisciplinary teams and support collaboration on a global scale. Greenhouse Tech has run similar global challenges in the past, including the NetZero Steel Challenge.

“We are keenly aware of the barriers preventing our ULCS vision from becoming reality, so we want to try something different to crack open the opportunity. Teaming up with Greenhouse Tech, which has a track record in driving this kind of innovation in the emissions reduction space, allows us to bring in more expertise to achieve the objectives of the Challenge,” Miller said.

Experts gathered at ARENA’s inaugural Solar Lab to define the long list of actions needed to unlock ULCS. This included innovation in installation, operations and maintenance of solar farms, as well as extensive collaboration across both supply and demand.

“Bringing together all the different stakeholders involved in solar projects is key to solving these problems in an innovative way and quickly scaling the solutions, so we thought this topic was ideal for a challenge,” said Mark Rowland, Chief Collaboration Officer at Greenhouse.

ARENA is looking to reduce the installed cost of a solar project to 30 cents per watt and to reach a levelised cost of electricity below $20 per megawatt hour by 2030. This could help unlock a total installed capacity of 1 terawatt by 2050.

The organisation is also administering the $1 billion Solar Sunshot Program, aimed at growing Australia’s domestic solar PV manufacturing capabilities in Australia and commercialising local solar PV innovation. While Sunshot is primarily focused on how components are made, the Challenge is focused on how they’re deployed.

The Solar ScaleUp Challenge is open for eight weeks and is expected to complement the Solar Sunshot program by building a pipeline of solar PV innovation that can be adopted by manufacturers along the supply chain, as well as project developers.

For more information about the Challenge, including who can enter, how to participate and submission deadlines, visit the Solar ScaleUp Challenge website.

Image credit: iStock.com/zetter

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